Well folks, I'm pleased to announce that today I'm posting Nichole White's second post (part of the allotted prize for the winner of The Ring contest). Way back, a long time ago, I celebrated the fact that I reached 20 followers. I'm now blessed to have 36 of you listening to me throughout the week :) This is officially my 95th post and...I am getting close to 40 followers, so *hint hint* another contest might be coming up again! Stay tuned for more excitement! In the mean time, I welcome to the stage: Nichole White on Paper VS. Digital (this is an "exclusive" once-in-a-lifetime post)! You can visit Nichole's blog Pen and Parchment for more information.
Paper VS. Digital:
What Can We Expect?
By: Nichole White
I remember very clearly the first book I ever read by myself. It was a little picture book with a boy and a drum on the cover and a bunch of farm animals in the background. Every time I turned the page and read the little black squiggly lines printed there, great four-year-old pride welled up in me; I could read! Of course, by that time I had the whole book memorized, but why should that matter? I knew the story, and I could read the pages in order without missing a single word. Perhaps it wasn’t the first time that the pages of a book had captured me, but it was the best by far and, since then, the pages of thousands of books have refused to let me go.
In recent years a debate has arisen as to whether or not paper-bound books are to be taken off the market in preference to the digital media. The argument has yet to be concluded as the majority of people seem to be split on which media to favor, so as of yet no move has been made to remove paper-bound books from the market. However, there has definitely been a rise of available material in the digital media, starting with downloadable documents on the internet and extending as far as Amazon’s Kindle, the Ireader, and now even the Iphone. And the choices in digital media just keep multiplying. Indeed, as Mr. Sam Kleinman states in his article “The E-book Experience; Print Books vs. Digital E-books”:
Because E-books are digital, not only are they super-portable, but they also open up the possibility for some really useful features. For starters, since most E-books are in some form of digital text file, you can search the text for words or phrases. […] Additionally, digital formats – assuming copy protection doesn’t get in the way – can be duplicated forever without decay or any real expense. […] E-books can (also) be read in a variety of lighting situations, and due to the backlit screens that most palm computers have, you can read an E-book in most low or no light situations.
There have been some attempts to digitalize the publishing process for paper books. In Europe they have now come out with a literal Espresso Book Maker; all a person needs to do is put in their money, either type in the title and author of the book they want or browse through the extensive list already downloaded on the machine, and press enter. The machine spits out the book in about five minutes, and it also allows a person to watch the process of the book being made. According to the article “Revolutionary Espresso Book Machine launches in London,” found on guardian.co.uk, most of the titles in the machine’s memory bank are titles that are out of copyright. However, there are hopes that the machine will soon have titles of books still in copyright in its memory for the consumer’s enjoyment. Trial versions of this machine have been strategically placed throughout Europe. If the idea takes, the machines will be spread to other countries of the world, including America. There have even been some thoughts as to whether or not such machines will take over traditional bookstores, or just be a bookstore’s asset. It has been suggested that these machines might be able to help small bookstores compete with the larger chain bookstores. As the Espresso Book Machine is a relatively new concept, no one is really sure how the world will receive it. However, so far it has received positive attention and feedback from the general public.
Perhaps the biggest problem that digital publishing resolves for the world is that of storage. I know this problem well; in fact, I’m dealing with it right now in my own home. My problem derives from the fact that I’m an avid book lover – one of those strange people who seem to have a chronic illness involving buying and/or reading any books I can get my hands on and then, inevitably, having nowhere to put my findings. I’m sure I’m not the only one. In fact, I know I’m not because most of my friends are exactly the same way. Right now, while struggling to clean my room for the holidays, I’m finding that I have an extremely extensive collection of books and, quite frankly, no room for bookshelves on which to store my collection. With Digital publishing the only type of storage a person has to worry about is in the form of megabytes and gigabytes, which don’t take up space in a room but rather on a computer. Also, because of the digital turn that most of the world seems to have taken some people might think it old fashioned to continue traditional paper publishing when they think it is obviously much easier to just go to a computer and find the text there. And what with email, blogs, websites on any subject from A to Z, and even dictionaries online, perhaps they are right to a degree. Digital publishing certainly has a place in this new world.
But is that any real reason to abolish paper printing?
This topic was discussed in the December issue of 2008’s Writer’s Digest magazine, the issue in which I first learned of the Paper to Digital Plan. As an avid writer myself (besides my chronic book collecting), I often look to the Writer’s Digest magazine for information on hot subjects in literature and on the market. Many times I’ve gotten inspiration that has helped me break free of the ever dreaded ‘slum’ of writer’s block. However, my look through that December issue proved to be not only enlightening but downright uncomfortable. Yet, putting my own personal feelings aside, the magazine did have some amazing articles on both the pros and cons of digital publishing.
In the article “It’s a Digital World Now”, published in that particular issue of Writer’s Digest and written by a Mr. Bob Sacks, 38-year veteran of the publishing industry, Sacks states that:
“In discussing the future of reading and publishing, electronic publishing is an unavoidable topic. […] The reading of a book is the distribution of stored information, passed from one person to another. Could it be a book printed on dead trees? Yes. Could it be the same book delivered in electronic format? Yes. The point is that all of the world’s information is now available for immediate distribution in any format the reader requires. […] Information distribution (formally known as publishing) is no longer just about the paper, and it’s not about your computer browser either. It’s about getting all the information anywhere, anytime, on any substrate and any platform. […] It’s a digital world now, and the digits aren’t going to go away.”
Sacks’ article holds a very prominent truth and even I, with my limited amount of digital knowledge, cannot deny it. Today’s world is a digital one centering, perhaps, on the younger generation. I personally know several kids who wouldn’t pick up a book to save their lives, but they check their emails everyday. Digital publishing and e-books are a way to reach them with reading material that otherwise they probably wouldn’t take a second look at.
However, I am among the many people who still find the thought of the world’s reading material completely going digital appalling. I will agree that there is room for digital media – and I am all too happy to have the computer organize my writing documents for me and help me plan a daily schedule – but paper still holds potential in this new and crazy world based around the complex number system of a computer’s core.
Another article found in the December 2008 issue called “The Death of Print Magazines and Other Fairy Tales,” written my Samir Husni, Ph.D., (also known as Mr. Magazine), talks about how, even in this new and certainly digital world, paper printing is not dead yet; indeed, it is still one of the most trusted versions of publishing in the world today.
When you look at the statistics, there’s a definite relationship: over the last 20 years, the number of new magazine launches has steadily increased in a near-direct correlation with the number of doom-and-gloom prophets. But those prophets have yet to say anything true. Yes, the numbers from the past few years have been less than rosy for the magazine industry, but every road has a few bumps. To say the future of magazines is little more than a resting place in a graveyard full of Betamax and laserdiscs would be ridiculous. The past year has said otherwise. […] Customers feel an attachment to print because holding a real magazine and tangibly feeling what you paid for is much more fulfilling than turning on your kindle or e-reader and reading a digital-rights managed copy of something. Magazines provide ownership. (Page 35-36)
Personally, I share Husni’s outlook on the printing of paper reading material, and I’m not the only one. Some people are even more serious about it than I am, even going so far as to refuse the digital world altogether. I’m not quite that extreme, but I do feel that traditionally published books are superior to their less physical e-book versions. However, it seems that this issue has been discussed as well and a solution is being considered.
“Once e-books become fully established and largely replace those in print, if we continue to need paper copies of books or journals for specific reasons, most will probably be printed on-demand from what will soon become ubiquitous print-on-demand (POD) printers,” says Mr. Lloyd A. Davidson, author of an article entitled “The End of Print: Digitalization and its Consequences.”
I don’t know how Mr. Davidson’s words stand among the debaters of the paper vs. digital plan, but it became apparent while reading Mr. Davidson’s article that he was as much of a “paper lover” as I am, and yet he was writing about the pros of digital publishing. Indeed, I’m not loath to admit that digital publishing isn’t the end of the world for those of us who still swear upon the physically printed words of traditional publishing. Print on Demand publishing is an option for writers who would prefer to hold a physical version of their books, and their works can still be bought, sold, and read over the internet. And, to be perfectly honest, I am not opposed to POD published books, or to books that are or ever were self published. There are many many authors out there who have written and self published a book, through POD companies or otherwise, and their books are very good – supurb even. I have read books like this that are absolutely amazing, and I am willing to vouch for them.
Digital publishing holds many options – perhaps even more options – for writers who wish to be published than traditional publishing ever held for both authors and readers alike. For one, digital publishing offers the chance to have writings bought and read all over the world with only the click of a button, a much easier task than walking or driving down to the local bookstore and searching among shelves and shelves of traditionally published books to find that one particular book you are looking for. An author can also publish their own works straight to the internet from his or her home without having to worry about agents, editors, and publicists (although editors are still a good idea); Amazon.com gives these authors the ability to have their writings shown to the world, and it also gives buyers the opportunity to read about the author and the book, and even download a PDF of the manuscript for a fee.
These are not the only options that computers and digitalization offer to the publishing world. An online companion dictionary provides quick access to new or difficult vocabulary with immediacy and within a meaningful context. (Reading, Writing, and) In fact, I have familiarized myself with several online dictionaries and thesauruses to use in my writings, and I use Microsoft Word and Microsoft Works 9 word processor – both well known writing programs – for all of my writing and outlining. This very paper was written in MS Word.
However, for all these wonderful assets and options, I still believe there is a certain sense of accomplishment attached to traditional publishing. I have yet to find an agent for my writings, or a publisher, or even an editor as I am still revising, but someday I will render myself vulnerable to the publishing world and send a manuscript off to find an agent. I’m sure there will be no feeling quite as exhilarating as the feeling I’ll get when one actually accepts me. And I’m sure new exhilaration will sweep through my core when a publisher finally requests to publish my book.
Call it an ambition for status, if you will; I consider traditionally published authors an elite group and someday I hope to join them. Indeed, they are to be commended for all that they’ve achieved because they stuck through all the difficulties involved in the world of traditional publishing: querying literary agencies over and over again only to receive hundreds of rejections: revising their writings: finally finding an agent to represent them: finding a publisher willing to work with their story: discovering what it truly means to be “patient” as they wait even longer to finally see their book in print: working with marketing: going on tiring book tours that zap the energy from their bodies and leave them feeling like they never want to write another book again – only to get up the next morning and sit down to write. All of this leads up to the satisfaction felt when an author sees people holding her tangible work in their hands, flipping through the pages and truly enjoying her hard work. It just isn’t quite the same watching someone read from a computer screen.
“Books are both public and intimate – the kind that are read in the bathroom or on the beach, in the subway or on the sofa – those books will not all go to modem. Good books are not the stuff of fly-by-night technology. They fit our hands, our brains and bodies, and we’ll continue to insist that they do.” (Paper vs. Modem)
As a writer myself, I know that seeing other people holding my book in their hands while they contemplate the content would awaken a deep sense of accomplishment in me. In my own opinion, digital publishing takes away from this sense of accomplishment. There are POD publishers out there today that allow anyone in the world to self publish their books with just the push of a button; no editing, critiquing, rejections, or waiting involved, and it doesn’t matter how “rough” the actual content of the book is. Apparently the new digital drive in publishing is to make this process even easier for writers of every type. However, what is forgotten among all the excitement stirred up over an easier and faster way to get published is the fact that traditional publishing works hard to sort out the best novels and writings of both new and established authors. Rejection slips and critiques are given for a reason and while a writer can’t please everyone with her writings, she can learn how to improve her writings from the rejections. If digital publishing makes it easy to publish any book or any writing at any time with just the push of a button, it will be a lot harder to distinguish “good writing” from “bad writing”; it may even lead to a stop of literary enjoyment among the reading public. This is one of my biggest fears. For while there are self published authors out there who have worked hard on editing, rewriting, editing again, and ultimately making their books as good and well written as is physically possible – and who have put thought and reason into their marketing strategies – there are just as many people in the world who call themselves “authors” and who have “self-published” their books with no thought what-so-ever to the actual hard work and research of the writing process, or the publishing and marketing world. It is these people who, I believe, give “self-publishing” a bad name, and thus also give some POD published books a bad name.
However, traditional and POD publishing involving books and novels are not the only areas of print being affected by this new move in digitalization (although it is the area that relates to my own interests more closely than anything else). The News media is also being forced to coincide with the digital world to a degree, in order to reach people with its content. In an article found on journalism.org we read that “With the profitability of their print publications in steady decline, magazine publishers turned with greater urgency in 2008 to Web operations.” (The State of) According to this article, “increasingly more magazines view their websites as stand-alone products that break news, aggregate content from outside sources, contribute immediate analysis of current events or provide searchable consumer information.” However, the article also states that “overall online advertising – which makes up the largest share of total digital revenue – still represents a very small portion of all total magazine ad revenue. At Time Inc., which leads among big magazine publishers in the share of revenues from digital businesses, that segment accounted for just 10% of its 2008 ad revenue.” (The state of)
To me, this is proof that while digital publishing has its pros, it also has its cons and the cons should not be overlooked by anyone. 10% ad revenue accounted for digitally in 2008 is not a lot, and then where do we look for the other 90%? We look to paper products, of course. According to the same article “The numbers (showing increase and decrease of visitors to magazine websites) suggest that success in print does not necessarily bring readers to online products, or vice versa.” (The State of)
As Steve Heimoff put it so well in an entry on his wine blog entitled “Paper vs. digital: The Future of Wine Writing”:
Yes, I do think many bloggers – maybe most – think that print is dead. Maybe many of them want print to be dead. Maybe print is moribund, dying, on its way out. Maybe someday there will be no books or magazines or newspapers. But print is hardly dead now and it’s not likely to be buried anytime soon. Print still dwarfs digital. I would argue print remains more influential (in wine) than anything online.
Personally, I can’t help but agree with Mr. Heimoff and, to me, there is not question as to whether or not paper literary products – whether they are newspapers, magazines, or good old-fashioned books – should remain as constants in a world that is going digital. As is becoming more and more noticeable, many people believe that the world’s reading material should be transferred into digital text, but are these people involved in the publishing industry themselves? We find that, more often than not, those people that are involved in publishing do rely on paper products for most of their revenue. After all, as Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of the magazine “Wired”, states in the article “Does Free Pay?” written by Jordan E. Rosenfeld and published in December 2008 issue of Writers digest, “I believe that the physical book is the superior product. If I didn’t, I would do this. I make a physical magazine, after all; we understand what paper can do that pixels can’t.”
And with that, I rest my case.